Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid picked up the surprising endorsement Friday of a rural newspaper with an influential voice in northern Nevada that says it doesn't like his liberal views but that the state's mining industry can't afford to lose his clout in Congress.
The Elko Daily Free Press acknowledged in Friday's editions that its longtime readers in the GOP stronghold 300 miles east of Reno "will be shocked and dismayed" it is not supporting the tea party-backed conservative Republican Sharron Angle.
The paper endorsed Republican presidential nominee John McCain against Barack Obama in 2008 and rarely publicly supports Democrats for statewide office.
Under the headline, "A selfish reason...," the Free Press said it shares tea party activists' goal of reining in government and returning "power to the people."
But it said the defeat of Reid, D-Nev., could permanently damage northeast Nevada's economy. Nevada is the world's sixth-largest gold producer behind China, South Africa, Australia, Russia and Peru.
"This is mining country, and the mining industry needs Sen. Harry Reid to win," the newspaper said.
Elko County's Republicans had more than a 2-to-1 advantage over Democrats among active registered voters at the end of September _ 10,005 to 4,365, according to the Nevada Secretary of State's office.
The county is part of Nevada's sprawling 2nd congressional district, which covers the entire state except Las Vegas and its suburbs. It has never been represented by a Democrat. GOP Rep. Dean Heller is expected to easily win re-election to a third term there next month.
The newspaper said Reid is a critical ally in the fight against annual attempts by environmentalists to strengthen regulations and win financial concessions from the mining industry.
"Of course, Reid has long been unpopular in rural Nevada because of his liberal views," the Free Press said. "Many Elko County residents have opposed him since he initiated the first wilderness designations here as a congressman. Yet, he is the only candidate who can assure that any reform of the 1872 Mining Law will be reasonable and not result in driving away the very industry that is the lifeblood of northeastern Nevada."
The last time Reid ran for re-election, his little-known Republican opponent Richard Ziser carried Elko County 53 percent to 41 percent in 2004. In 1998, when Reid won by only 421 votes in a recount against then Rep. and now Republican Sen. John Ensign, he received 2,587 votes in Elko County to Ensign's 7,050.